To Infinity And Beyond
Did any of y’all catch the Artemis news conference over the weekend on Nasa TV? I’m a big sci-fi fan so I am freaking out over this new mission to the moon, Mars, and beyond. It was so fascinating to hear all these aeronautical experts and Nasa directors talk about what we’ll be doing up there over the next several years.
But Nasa Administrator, former Senator Bill Nelson, who, I might add, was unanimously confirmed by the US Senate after President Joe Biden’s nomination to the post, almost made me stand up and pledge allegiance to our flag with his answer to the following question from a reporter. Jim Siegel of nasatech.net asked the senator, “why are we going to Mars?”
Senator Nelson’s answer can be watched at the 1 hour and 23 minute mark HERE
He first reminded us that “we are adventurers and explorers as a species.” He then went on to express the excitement of what we do not yet know. He seemed enamored by the beauty of the unknown. He even honestly stated that he couldn’t answer the question but that he just knows that we’re going to know a lot more than we currently do. He then referenced Thomas Jefferson sending Lewis and Clarke on their Corps of Discovery Expedition. And look how that benefited us. Now I know some of you are rolling your eyes at my referencing Thomas Jefferson. And while that’s a conversation for another day, it can serve as a lesson on how even “bad” or “less than reputable” people can still, if not more so, inspire great success. There’s another president that comes to mind when pontificating on this idea. ANYWAY.
Senator Nelson’s speech was encouraging us to keep searching, keep exploring, because it leads to greater knowledge, deeper understanding, and growth that can not happen otherwise.
It seemed to parallel our spiritual journeys. The beauty of agnosticism is that we honor the fact that we don’t know anything for certain, and in that, are inspired to constantly work towards finding beauty in that unknown. Space and Heaven are often conflated, and in our minuscule understanding of the universal Divine, I understand why. They both represent an elevated interaction with the beyond. Keep searching, keep chasing.
I then thought back to one of my favorite acceptance speeches, given by Matthew McConaughey for his performance in Dallas Buyer’s Club. He outlines the 3 things that he needs each day.
Something to look up to
Something to look forward to
Someone to chase
You can watch the speech HERE.
I think these 3 things capture what leaving religion can take from us: the pursuit of something greater. In our safe religious beliefs/routines, albeit often abusive and toxic, we have those 3 things.
We look up to God, or whoever that is defined for us.
We look forward to church because it provides community.
And we chase salvation.
When we leave dogmatic belief systems, then what? Everything we had hope in, is no longer. When I was first deconstructing my religion, I experienced severe panic attacks. I would wake up every day convinced I had some new ailment. I remember working for a fabulous interior designer on the West Side when I first moved to LA. I was still figuring out my bearings in a new city. There were times before I drove home where I would call my cousin, who is an R.N., telling her that I just knew I had meningitis. Seriously. I would be afraid to drive home because I just knew I would succumb to it or throw a clot and die on The 60, east bound. Yes, I lived that far east when I first moved here. She would instruct me to lie on my back on the floor and see if I could pull my knees to my chest. Once I was convinced I didn’t have meningitis, I would head home. As I was leaving my religion, I was losing my hope in something greater. Queue panic attacks. I think that’s why Senator Nelson’s speech touched me so much. As an Exvangelical, I am just now, years later, finding beauty in the unknown. In the search for something greater. But it reminded me why I was addicted to Christianity: The unknown was defined for me and it was a safe space to put hope. Until it wasn’t. Isn't that how addiction works?
I look up to everyone bravely stepping outside of their comfort zones to question life and the Divine. To chase something greater.
So it was the 3rd “need” of McConaughey’s that continues to blow me away. In the speech, he describes his “someone to chase” as the person he has not yet become.
You see, his hero is who he’s going to be in 10 years. And in 10 years, his hero will be who he’s going to be in the following ten years, and so on. He’ll never meet his hero, because his hero is always 10 years in the future. His hero is the man he’s going to become.
And that is why I am embracing a love for my faith and lack thereof. My faith is in the faith I will have in 10 years. Or the faith I won't have. I don’t have the same spirituality today that I will have in 10 years, nor do I have the same spirituality today that I had 10 years ago. And that brings me comfort because it means that I am always going to be experiencing life and responding to it accordingly. Whatever growth I encounter will inform how I see/interact with the world as well as with the Divine.
This week, I encourage you to loosen the grasp on what faith means to you, to release your spiritual beliefs of all the impossible expectations we put on them, and to simply sit, breathe, and to have faith in the faith you’re going to have (or not have) in 10 years. Look forward to that. Chase that.
I’m a homebody. I LOVE being at home. I wouldn’t call myself an introvert, but I definitely love my alone time. That said, I HAVE to have things to look forward to in my week. I keep my planner open on my desk so that I can always see things scheduled that bring me joy. Singalong Night. Drag Race night. Friend’s celebrations. Auditions. Pickle Ball. I’m going to work on applying that same approach to my faith. Having faith in the faith I don’t yet have. Chasing what’s to come.
Senator Bill Nelson’s answer to “why we’re going to Mars,” and McConaughey’s speech on needing something to look up to, look forward to, and chase ignited something in me. Pun intended.
We are explorers because we are evolutionary creatures designed to evolve and do better. We search, not because we are lost, but because there is something greater to be found.
Make sure you watch the Artemis launch Monday morning, weather pending. It's also my Dad's birthday! I got him a rocket launch to celebrate! Think about releasing your faith with that launch, trusting that you’ll know more then than you know now.
"And that," says Nasa Administrator, Senator Bill Nelson, "is the fulfillment of our destiny."